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Archive for November, 1999

GIVING THANKS

Happy Thanksgiving!  I’m writing this with mixed emotions – joy for our
immediate family’s good health and happiness, and sadness that our cousin,
Phyllis (Hensche) Katz, is gravely ill and in intensive care because of an
infection secondary to leukemia.  Please join us in praying for her.

On December 1, it will be the second anniversary of my admission to the
hospital for the stem cell transplant, and more than 2 1/2 years since my
diagnosis of breast cancer.  I’m feeling fine and have no sign of cancer.
As you may recall, I needed frequent blood transfusions for the year after
the stem cell transplant, but I haven’t needed any since December 17, 1998.
Since my last journal update (3/99), my blood counts have continued to hold
steady, or there may have been a modest improvement.  I now give myself an
injection of Procrit (20 units) once a week to improve the red blood counts.
The platelets are still low, but not dangerously so.  Here are the last
few counts:

Date White blood count Hematocrit Hemoglobin Platelets
8/6/99 2.8 36.1 12.7 67
9/13/99 2.4 34.4 11.6 39
10/11/99 2.9 34.5 11.7 47
11/19/99 3.0 34.3 11.6 49

I’ve also had an annual mammogram (in July), an annual bone scan (in August),
and blood tests every quarter, and none of these show any sign of cancer.

I continue to have a home care nurse come to the house once a month to care
for the portacath and take blood samples.  The portacath made it much
easier when I had blood tests, transfusions, or chemotherapy.  I could
have the portacath removed by now, but I think I’m superstitious – it’s like
carrying an umbrella to be sure it won’t rain.  The nurse drew blood last
week, but her office neglected to let me know the results of the blood tests,
and I’m so relaxed about this that I forgot to call them to find out the
results.

I’ve been quite healthy all year, except for some digestive problems in the
spring and an uneventful case of shingles in the summer. In the spring
my digestive system was very uncomfortable.  My internist concluded that
there was yeast in my system, and put me on anti-yeast drugs and herbs, and
an anti-yeast diet for a month or two.  I hated the diet (I was much crankier
about that than about chemotherapy), but after a while the symptoms went
away, and I went back to eating my favorite foods.  In June I discovered an
unfamiliar rash, and (fortunately) went right to my doctor’s office to ask
if I should be concerned.  He knew immediately that it was shingles, and put
me on an anti-viral drug (acyclovir????).  It all cleared up in a week or
two, and never was very painful.  Other than that, I’ve hardly had a cold all
year, and when I did get one, it cleared up in a few days.  [Lesson for other
cancer patients: I’ve heard that it is not unusual to get shingles after
chemotherapy.  Early diagnosis and treatment seems to make a difference – so
if you see an unfamiliar rash, get to the doctor right away].

This fall has been a wonderful period in all our lives.  Sarah has entered a
public school, the Crossroads School on 109th Street near Broadway.  It’s an
alternative public middle school, connected with the Coalition of Essential
Schools and the Center for Collaborative Education.  Ken, Sarah, and I all
fell in love with the place when we visited at the end of August, and we’ve
continued to love it all semester.  Sarah is thriving there, making good
friends, loving her teachers, doing well in her classes, and complaining on
vacations that she can’t go to school!  Sarah is also loving her after-school
acting class, and did a great job preparing for her audition at Laguardia
High School (the performing arts high school featured in the movie “Fame.”)

Ken and I have gotten involved in the Crossroads Parents Association Steering
Committee.  I’ve started a computer committee, have gotten the steering
committee and the principal onto an egroups e-mail discussion list, and have
started a recycling program to get computers for all the families in the
school who can’t afford to buy new ones.  We’ve already given out eleven
computers, and I am looking for computers for others right now.  (Please ask
at your office whether they have older Windows 95 or 98 computers, or recent
Macs, that they’d like to donate to the school).  The school community has
responded with enormous warmth and enthusiasm to my efforts – the principal
calls me “amazing” when I arrive with mail-merged thank you letters for her
to sign.  I find the parent group delightful.  It is a very mixed group, both
ethnically and economically, and yet there is a high level of mutual warmth,
respect, and trust among parents and faculty.

I also continue to be very involved in the West End Synagogue, as membership
chair and computer coordinator.

Margie continues to take our breath away as she juggles many balls in the
air.  This semester she has been co-chair of BOTH the Yale Hunger and
Homelessness Action Project (YHHAP) AND the Yale Student Environmental
Coalition – and she has managed to take a full academic load at the same
time.  Both groups have done wonderful work under her leadership.  We’re
relieved, though, that she will finish her one-year term with YHHAP next
week.  Margie explained to me that she stays sane in spite of all the
stresses thanks to her wonderful group of friends.  Next semester she
plans to take up Capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian dance/martial art form and to
continue studying yoga, which she has taken much more seriously since her
summer in India.

Margie has moved into a three-family house with nine friends, and the
housemates (some Jewish and some not) have 40 people for Shabbat dinner every
Friday.  Her apartment is delightful and welcoming, and the students love to
come there for meals or meetings or to relax.  She and her roommates did a
great job fixing it up (with help from Ken, Sarah, and me, – we painted
walls, sewed couch cushion covers, solicited donations of household supplies,
etc.).  I love to visit there, because her friends love having a “mommy”
around – one friend told me she thought that mommies were the true
Superheroes.  What a contrast to high school!

This has been a good time for Ken, too.  His employer, Bankers Trust Company,
was acquired by Deutsche Bank, and he was sad to see many long-time
colleagues and friends move on to other jobs.  But the new setup has its
advantages.  They’ve set a permanent “dress-down” policy.  He has been
traveling more – he’s been to Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and Frankfurt in
the past month, and he has been enjoying getting to know Deutsche Bank
colleagues from other parts of the world.  His assignment, related to global
tax planning, is a challenging one.

One of Ken’s favorite activities is playing with young children.  As our
children have gotten older, he has missed having young children in his
life.  Though we are old enough to be grandparents, our kids are not old
enough to be parents.  But now Ken has found “surrogate grandchildren” to
play with. Every Saturday morning we go to the West End Synagogue, and he
has a wonderful time playing with the toddlers there.  They call him “Uncle
Ken.”  He also has a very special relationship with our grandnephews.

My mother, at age 91, continues to live independently and to think clearly
and provide emotional support to us and to many other people (and to serve on
the Planned Parenthood board).  However, she has been in pain from arthritis
and she walks with great difficulty.  We’re hoping she can arrange for
help with preparing meals, etc.  She tried one new medication for
arthritis, Celebrex, but it hasn’t helped much.  She tried Vioxx (??) this
week, and for a couple of days she was free of pain, but then she had a bad
night again.  We’re hoping that the new medication will continue to help, and
that we can continue to enjoy her love and guidance for many more years.

We hope you and your loved ones have had a delicious and joyous Thanksgiving
and that you enjoy a happy holiday season.

Love,

Harriet

 

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